Dual inhibition of MEK1/2 and PLK1 specifically targets aggressive breast cancer cell population with CEP55 elevated expression
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Triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs), lacking the expression of ER, PR and HER2 amplification, are the most aggressive form of breast cancer (BC). Due to their heterogeneity influenced by high level of genomic instability and aneuploidy, treatment of TNBC patients is one of the biggest challenges faced in the clinics. CEP55, discovered first by our laboratory, is a key regulator of cytokinesis malfunction of which has been shown to cause multinucleation. Furthermore, ERK2/PLK1 critically regulates the functional role of CEP55 via phosphorylation of CEP55 at particular stages of mitosis, allowing it to localize to the midbody for accurate cytokinesis. Research has demonstrated association of CEP55 with various cancers especially BC as over-expression of CEP55 mRNA is associated with worse BC prognosis and poor survival. We hypothesized that, CEP55 regulates the fate of aneuploid cell population, which are highly dependent on mitotic genes for tumor progression among aggressive BC, thus can be targeted for therapy development. We have performed a series of in vitro studies demonstrating that depletion of CEP55 sensitizes cells to anti-mitotic drugs like PLK1 inhibitor (BI2536) and leads to unscheduled CDK1/Cyclin B activation and favor CDK1-Caspase 3-dependent mitotic catastrophe. We also demonstrate that ERK1/2 transcriptionally controls CEP55 mRNA and due to lack of a specific small molecule inhibitor against CEP55, inhibition of MEK1/2 using the small molecule inhibitor Selumetinib, can mimic depletion of CEP55 in vivo. Thus, we rationalized the usage of a MEK1/2 inhibitor in combination with a PLK1 inhibitor across a series of BC cell lines. We observed synthetic lethality among the aggressive hormone receptor negative cell lines, which expressed higher expression of CEP55 compared to normal like and hormone receptor positive BC cell lines with lower CEP55 level. The combination synergistically increased apoptosis of aneuploid population via premature entry of these cells into mitosis in the presence of antimitotic drugs due to exhaustion of CEP55. We have also validated this synergistic effect of MEK1/2 and PLK1 inhibition using xenograft models, results of which imitated the in vitro findings. Therefore, we propose a novel treatment strategy of MEK1/2-PLK1 dual combination for selectively targeting CEP55 over-expressing BC in the clinics.
Cancer Research: Proceedings: AACR Annual Meeting 2017; April 1-5, 2017; Washington, DC
Oncology and Carcinogenesis not elsewhere classified